While there might not be a problem with a glass of wine at dinner or the celebratory glass of champagne, consuming too much alcohol on the regular can contribute to signs of aging – inside your body and out.
Alcohol use disorder comes with a series of side effects that are typically easy to point out: slurred speech, instability (literally and in life), financial problems, relationship troubles, and more. The effects that prolonged use of alcohol has on the body, though, aren’t as easily noticeable and can catch up with you faster than you think.
Some effects of alcohol on aging might be easier to deal with – like the early appearance of wrinkles or chronic dark circles. Whereas serious health issues can put you at risk for hospitalization, tie you to prescription medications, or shorten your life.
It’s widely known that alcohol is damaging to the liver. Our livers help to detoxify our bodies and keep it healthy. If you are regularly filtering alcohol through your liver, it begins to cause liver damage over time. When you have a liver that isn’t properly filtering toxins out of the body, they are left to wreak havoc and cause damage on a cellular level.
All of the constant damage that a body endures from alcohol use disorder specifically manifests in the following ways:
Depletion of nutrients
Alcohol use disorder can cause your body to drop significantly in nutrients that it needs to stay healthy. One of these nutrients is vitamin A which helps with collagen production and oxidative stress. If you don’t have enough collagen in your body, you might develop premature wrinkles or have saggy skin.
Collagen helps your skin bounce back and keeps Your skin looking hydrated and healthy. Although your skin is meant to protect you from the elements, it’s important to care for your skin properly because it’s more sensitive than you might think. One great way to take care of your skin and reduce signs of aging is to cut back on alcohol intake.
They say that for every alcoholic beverage you drink, you should have one glass of water. This is because alcohol acts as a diuretic and is very dehydrating. The morning after binge drinking, you might think that your skin looks off, you have dark circles, and you can’t seem to drink enough water. If you’re hungover, you’re already severely dehydrated and your body is taking a beating.
Redness and puffiness
Alcohol has the ability to widen the blood vessels that bring blood to your face so it can give you the appearance of being red and splotchy. More blood in your face can also lead to swelling and discomfort. If you are regularly consuming alcohol, you put yourself at risk for developing rosacea and popped blood vessels around the noise and eyes.
Even just a few pounds added to the face can make one look like they have aged a few years. Not only that, but excess weight can make it so the systems in our bodies have to work harder to function properly, so you feel tired and run-down more often. Alcohol also leads to high blood sugar and overproduction of insulin which can trigger the liver to produce fatty deposits and store them around the waistline. When fat builds up at the waist, it may result in a “beer belly.”
When you fall asleep after a night of heavy drinking, your quality of sleep really suffers. In the morning, you’ll likely wake up with dark, puffy bags underneath your eyes that make you look years older than you really are. Even if it seems like you’ve fallen asleep quickly and deeply, alcohol prevents you from entering the deep and restorative stages of sleep that are necessary for overall health and well-being.
Alcohol does more than make you look older on the inside. Everything that rises to the surface pales in comparison to what’s really going on inside your body.
Alcohol severely affects…
…the brain. Drinking alcohol in excess over long periods of time can contribute to early onset Alzheimer’s and general forgetfulness. Severe alcohol use disorder can lead to brain damage, mood disorders, strokes, and seizure disorders.
…the liver: Liver disease is a common and severe side effect of alcohol use disorder. After years of drinking alcohol, the liver may be left scarred and inflamed – leading to fatty liver, fibrosis, hepatitis, or liver cancer.
…the digestive system: Frequent binge drinking can deteriorate the stomach lining and lead to ulcers.
…the cardiovascular system: Alcohol can put a lot of stress on the heart which could lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, blood clots, strokes, and heart attacks.
…the reproductive system: Men who suffer from alcohol use disorder may also suffer from erectile dysfunction. Women may have abnormal menstrual cycles due to hormonal imbalances.
…the bones: Alcohol use disorder can cause calcium deficiencies and result in weak bones that are prone to fractures or osteoporosis.
Keep an eye what you drink
Although it’s true that reducing or cutting alcohol out all together is the best way to slow the clock on aging, you can also help yourself by monitoring the type of alcohol you consume. Even beverage with low sugar contents have hidden alcohol sugars that aren’t on the label. Dark liquors contain more fermentation byproducts and congeners which lead to worse hangovers and skin issues. Liquor mixed with soda has all of the detrimental effects of alcohol plus that of soda.
Stay mindful about what you’re putting into your body, consume alcohol in moderation and you should be in good shape to live a long and healthy life. If you find yourself out of balance, lean into your support system and ask for help.
If you or someone you know has moderate to severe alcohol use disorder, it’s important to get help before it’s too late. Intrepid Recovery has staff available to answer your questions 24/7 as well as residential and outpatient programs to suit everyone’s individual needs. Alcoholism might not seem like it’s a problem in its early stages, but things can go downhill fast. In any case, Intrepid Recovery is here for you and your family.